How to Butcher Bear Meat

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Butchering a bear can be a laborious process even with the help of a couple of friends. Well before butchering the animal it is important that you organize your work areas, find a suitable refrigerator/freezer to store the meat, and fully consider your plans for cooking the meat. Please note that bear meat is notoriously tough, strong smelling, and easily dried out during cooking. Because of this, specialty cuts (like steaks) are generally rejected in favor of ground meat (such as sausages and hamburgers) or stew meat. The ground meat and stew meat applications both require that you strip and cube all meat.

Things You'll Need

  • 6- to 8-inch hunting knife
  • Cutting board
  • Bone-saw, heavy-duty hacksaw or electric saw
  • Large refrigerator or freezer
  • Large, cleanable table
  • 9- to 12-foot upright/free-standing structure (optional)
  • 12- to 20-foot chain (optional)
  • Hook (optional)

Skin your bear so that you are left with a headless and pawless carcass covered in layers of white fat. Lay the bear carcass out on your large table or suspend the bear from its hind legs about 3 feet from the ground using your chain, hook and upright.

Cut off the layers of fat with your hunting knife. Bears have two types of fat: The outer layer is jelly-like while the layer closer to the muscle is firmer, like beef tallow. Use carefully executed cuts to shave off the fat in chunks, getting as close to the red bear meat as possible. Discard the fat or reserve the pieces to render into bear lard or grease.

Remove the fillets. To do this, saw the sternum down the middle then split the rib cage into two halves. The tenderloins or fillets are the muscles that run along the spine from the bottom of the rib cage to just before the hind legs. Reserve these if you want bear steaks or simply cube into roughly 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inch pieces like you will be doing to the rest of the bear meat.

?Peel the meat from the ribs. Insert the knife just under the rib meat on the outside of the animal’s rib cage making a generous incision. Run your knife along flesh and the rib bones as you pull the meat back, peeling off the rib meat.

Remove the meat from the front and back legs. Holding out the limb, use your knife to cut the meat, sinew and tendons away from shoulder and hip joints and then saw off each limb at the exposed joint. Cut meat away from each leg and cube.

Strip and cube the remaining meat from the carcass. The remaining meat will mostly be around the shoulders.

Place cubes of meat in an airtight container or in plastic bags. Place in your refrigerator or freezer, or grind with spices and other meat (traditionally pork) to make ground meat for hamburgers or sausage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Keep in mind that it is preferable to cut off a little meat rather than leave excess fat on the carcass. The gelatinous fat will cause the bear meat to go rancid and seriously affect the quality of the meat; removing the fat quickly is your immediate concern.

References

  • Hunting Trophy Black Bear; Richard P. Smith; 1990
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